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Reconciliation to God is concerned, first and last, with God alone, but not with God in isolation. On the contrary, it is the assurance that nothing is isolated from Him, but that, by His continuous gracious relation to us, we have the purpose for which the earth is ours, the love by which we judge all things, and the working together of all for good whereby we have victory over evil without and within. While grace as the action of omnipotence would be a straight line undeflected by any conscious experience, a gracious relation is a curve which encircles our whole world, and all our dealings with our fellow-men, and our complete victory in the Kingdom of God.

As such, it has always a concave and a convex side, seemingly contradictory, really complementary. It enables us to find ourselves in God's real world, but only by delivering us from ourselves in our own unreal world; it secures us the perfect liberty of God's children, but only through the perfect service of our brethren; it wins for us the possession of peace, but only through the warfare of the Kingdom of Righteousness.

Precisely because a gracious relation is personal and ethical, God's dealings with us must take this 129 circuitous route, this way of immediate conflicts but ultimate harmonies, of opposites, which, mechanically considered, are irreconcileable, but which it is the nature of a right personal relation to reconcile.

At the outset, we are met by the perplexity that, while God's relation to us is only another name for love and love is its only adequate response, love can neither be directly given nor directly required. It can only be indirectly evoked by giving us ground for the faith that God is love. But, in that case, it is the consequence, not the condition, of reconciliation.

Love, as emotion unrelated to any experience, might, by the direct operation of grace as omnipotent power, be poured into the soul, and this might drown out all contrary emotions of enmity. But blind submission to the influence of another is not love, and it works nothing to be described as reconciliation, which must be at least the recognition of a mutual relation. This being seen, it is impossible to remain purely passive : and, if emotion is regarded as the condition, it seems a duty to be more emotional. But all effort after feeling is unreal, is indeed the spring of all unreality, and an attempt to supply what omnipotent grace has left lacking has a special unreality.

An emotion which is to take its place in our conscious life, must work through some medium and have some verification. A direct impersonal force is most easily conceived as passing through the familiar vehicle of such forces--material things. Hence the 130 attraction for this type of mysticism of a material sacramentarianism. But the more mysterious the spiritual grace this vehicle conveys, the more some evidence besides emotion is needed to prove its efficacy. To our own spiritual state, moreover, the precept "Know thyself" is specially difficult to apply; and, of all difficult things to know, our love to a God who remains for us a purely ideal Being in the Heavens, is the most elusive. Our actions, therefore, must be added as a test. God's work, in Augustine's phrase, must become our merit. Then this merit, to be of value as a test, must be legally estimated, and be, if possible, openly displayed in visible acts of self-imposed disciplines and self-denials. Thus we are brought back to legal merit as the evidence, directly, of our emotion, and, indirectly, of the inflowing of God's grace.

Such merit is not less harassing because, in the last resort, it must be waited for till God chooses to transmute our nature into love. It still remains a trust in our own goodness, hesitating but not humble. Our attention being directed away from the graciousness of God's love to us and toward the nurture of the graciousness of our love to God, we cannot attain to quiet trust in God, but meet in our path again the old nightmare of legal merit. And after we have laboured our hardest to love God, we are no nearer our goal, for the simple and sublime reason that love is not love as it deliberately fans its emotion, but only as it forgets itself in what it loves.


That this demand of our love to God is not the way to blessedness we shall see, if we ask how it would help us in our relation to the world and to man and to the Kingdom or Rule of God.

I. In respect of the world we have seen that poverty of spirit is the secret of blessedness. It is strength and peace even in disaster and defeat, because it is the assurance that, in spite of our very ungracious relation to life and our constant blindness to its highest values, life, under the frowning face it often wears, has a wholly gracious relation to us. But dependence on our love to God is dependence on our gracious relation to life: whereupon life is manifestly not gracious to us. If, through love to God, we have a high and worthy relation to life, what are we to think of its stern and calamitous relation to us? Must we not feel ourselves superior artists for whom this rough and tumble world was not designed? Surely it is at best a carnal sphere for carnal souls, from which it is right to isolate ourselves in order to cultivate sensitiveness and sentiment. Thus the more we are assured of success in cultivating our emotion and the more we conceive in God an emotion corresponding to our own, the less this discordant world can be referred to God, and the more it is a mere cause of dismay to ourselves.

II. Blessedness in our dealing with others might seem to be better guaranteed by the demand to love God. Love is the fulfilling of the whole law, and the unrestricted requirement to love our neighbour as 132 ourselves is inseparable from the requirement to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, for, except as a child of God, he cannot have this absolute claim upon us.

A right relation to man, nevertheless, is not to be won directly from our love to God. Our confidence is that we are the good children of the family. But that is not a reason for being kind to the unthankful and the evil. Rather it justifies us in resenting the despiteful usage and persecution of the bad.

Nor is this conclusion mere inference and theory. The societies which have sought to realise God's love directly as love to God, have, as a matter of history, tended to regard themselves as God's peculiar people, exclusively the objects of His care, specially favoured of Him in this life and awaiting an abundant entrance into another, while it is no great disturbance to the cultivation of their emotions to think that an impassable gulf will finally separate them from the rest of mankind.

The simple reason is that, to begin with our love to God is to begin with our perfect relation to men, the only possible effect of which is a sense of their deplorable relation to us. A truly blessed relation to others can rest neither on our love to God nor on our love to man, but only on the faith that, in spite of the imperfect relations of all of us to one another, the bond of God's family abides secure because it is guaranteed by the love of the Father from whom every family in heaven and earth is named.


God's love means that He calls us, not servants, but sons. To this we stand in an effective relation only if its practical, ethical meaning is kindness to the unthankful and the evil. But, when we start from our love, we have only an aesthetic sentiment which must shrink from contact with coarse and erring humanity. So far from leading to the pure-hearted humility which sees God most clearly in His kindness to the worst, it sees a delicate spotlessness which draws its skirts round it when it touches the best. Out of that fear of contamination both for ourselves and God, no blessed victory of love to our enemies in face of their evil and unrighteousness is ever to be won.

III. Blessedness in the Kingdom of God might, even with more assurance, be thought to rest on our love to God. We enter the Kingdom as we realise that love is the sum of all blessedness, and peace nothing less than assurance of the absolute victory of love.

But can we say that love as an emotion cultivated in our hearts, which we take to be a response to a similar emotion in the heart of God, gives us either blessedness or peace in respect of any rule of God we know?

Under the idea of God as love, thus emotionally understood, little more is presented than an indulgent parent, out of all relation to life's stern lessons and austere requirements. Such a God could neither afford us a sense of the overwhelming reality of truth and 134 righteousness nor enable us to stand for them without any sense of distress or isolation or martyrdom. It might rather seem that a benevolent Deity could not mean His children to be so much distressed or to be exposed so nakedly and alone in the open breach. No prophetic call is here, no burden of the Lord to face every conflict, fear no opposition, stand against the world, if need be, on the side of God. An interest in spacious schemes of social amelioration to be carried out by the general approval of society would be its utmost effect.

A sentimental religion with tender appeals to love God, leaving a vague sense that an emotional profession of kindly feeling to others is the fulfilling of the whole law, has been so obviously inadequate to life that, here and there, a teacher has arisen who insisted on giving the justice of God an equal place beside His love. Forgetfulness of the solemn and arresting fact that God is justice as well as love is, we are told, the reason why we have so much effusiveness and so little reality, so much prettiness and so little facing of life's stern insistencies, above all so much cheap benevolence and so little righteousness.

The weakness here exposed is beyond denial, yet, by the way of setting God's justice beside His love, we shall never reach any blessed Rule of God. Justice and love cannot have equality, because, when thus set together, justice must be put first, as a condition to be fulfilled, before love can be suffered to exercise its mercy, and God, like man, must be just before He 135 is generous. Whereupon, love, so conditioned, ceases to be love, and becomes a rather hesitating kindliness on strictly fitting occasions. Nor does justice fare much better, for it becomes little more than adherence to rules of equity.

The true cause of the sentimental error is the notion of love as an emotion in our hearts, responding to a similar emotion in God's.

Love to God, as the ground of our confidence, is merely an emotion, which, in itself, need be neither ethical nor spiritual, but is in constant danger of degenerating into sentiment, and, from that, into sentimentalism, which is the merest mask of true feeling.

Yet the remedy is not to say God is justice as well as love, but to know that God's love is a mind towards His children which requires a rule incapable of being anything except righteousness.

To begin with any of our graces commits us to a valetudinarian anxiety about our spiritual symptoms and a harassing punctiliousness about our spiritual regimen, whereas spiritual health, like physical, should forget itself in the exercise of its own energy and thrive on all it finds provided. And this applies even more to faith as mere feeling than to love. As a state of mind requiring to be cherished in ourselves -- a grace God implants and a merit by which He saves and yet which it is somehow our fault to be without -- the demand for faith keeps men for ever with their 136 finger on their spiritual pulse. Our eyes being turned from God to ourselves, from the outward object to be believed to the inward state of believing, to be maintained simply as feeling, faith ceases to be, in an ethical and spiritual sense, conviction of any reality, and becomes a mixture of excited emotions, instigated confessions and suppressed intellectual convictions, morally insincere and religiously unreal.

The right beginning is not faith as an emotion concerned about itself, but faith as a trust relying upon God. Only as faith arises from an object which constrains belief is it truly faith, being, by so much as it is of our own effort, the less faith. Only when, on contemplation of the object, belief constrains us, and we have no need to constrain it, is faith real. Except in so far as it impresses us as true, we have no right to believe anything; and to try to impress ourselves in a direction contrary to the object itself is to forget that truth is the basis of all right moral motive, and reality the security of all religious victory. A true faith is simply faith in the truth solely because it convinces us that it is true.

Faith is only the right beginning when it is directed to God's gracious relation to us and away from all questions of our gracious relation to God. The greatest is still love -- and there is no faith to which it is not greatest, but faith has to do with love as a purpose on earth and not merely as a sentiment in the Divine mind. It is called faith, and not knowledge, 137 not because it is more independent of the testimony of reality to itself, but because, the reality being God's purpose, acceptance of it, as we see it, is a necessary condition for receiving its witness as it speaks in the world and among men, because, in short, it depends, more than other knowledge, on inward sincerity. This personal requirement does not, however, make faith mere subjective response to abstract emotion in the heavens. Faith is still what we see to be true, and this personal condition only concerns the right way of seeing a personal reality. Faith affirms that the actual order of the world, upon which all our blessedness utterly depends, is of the nature of the wise and holy goodness we name love. Being an assertion about reality, about what is the ultimate word of power, as well as the ultimate word of fellowship, it must either be true or the vastest and most misleading delusion. Being concerned with the nature of final reality, the rule of love which faith affirms is either fact or fiction, and can be nothing between.

By starting from faith in this way, we start from God's love as the blessed meaning of the world, the blessed order of society, and the blessed warfare of the Kingdom of God. Then only can we see that love is no substitute for the moral task, but just a comprehensive name for the full scope of its action and the full height of its motive. Faith works by love, but it is God's love as the reality of His Rule, not ours even at its best.


We believe that God is love when we can reverse it and say that love is God, that, in whatsoever weakness it may meet us, it wields the might of omnipotence. To see this by our own insight is to have faith, and the man who has seen it is blessed in knowing that all the reality of which he is conscious is in his power for good, all the ideals by which he could direct himself unerringly in the midst of it are for his seeking, and all the Rule of God is for him, in all conflict, a kingdom of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. If that be the meaning of God's gracious relationship to us, the first question is, Can we trust it? and that means, Can we see it to be true? That can only be answered by the faith which sees its own blessedness to be in reality of this nature, love having, by experience, made its own appeal and been its own evidence.

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